Marshall’s next defensive coordinator will bring plenty of coaching experience to Huntington.
Chuck Heater, a former University of Michigan running back and national championship-winning coach, has been hired to replace Chris Rippon, who resigned the position Nov. 24, an informed source said Thursday morning. The hire has not been officially released by the school, but the source said an announcement is coming in the “next few days.”
Heater has been a college coach since 1976, a year after he was released by the New Orleans Saints. Born in Weston, he graduated from Columbian High in Tiffin, Ohio, and went on to a career at Michigan that saw him finish fourth on the school’s all-time rushing list.
He was drafted in by the Saints in 1975 but was released three months later.
Heater’s coaching career started at Northern Arizona, where he spent one season as running backs coach. He then spent five seasons at Toledo, where he spent stints coaching the running backs and defensive backs.
From 1982-84, Heater was the defensive backs coach at Wisconsin before moving on to Ohio State, where he spent three seasons at the same position for head coach Earle Bruce.
In 1988, Heater was hired as the defensive backs coach at Notre Dame, where he stayed for three seasons. He was on the coaching staff when the Fighting Irish beat quarterback Major Harris and West Virginia University for the 1988 national championship.
In 1991, Heater rejoined Bruce, this time at Colorado State, where he spent two seasons as defensive coordinator.
Heater then spent the next six seasons at Colorado. He had a variety of positions - recruiting coordinator, defensive backs coach and tight ends coach.
From there, Heater spent five seasons, from 1999-2003, at Washington. He was recruiting coordinator and coached cornerbacks and running backs.
In 2004, Heater spent his first of seven seasons with Urban Meyer. The first was at Utah, where he was recruiting coordinator and defensive backs coach. He then followed Meyer to Florida, where Meyer became known as one of the top college coaches in the nation.
Heater’s first three years with the Gators were spent as cornerbacks coach and recruiting coordinator. In 2006, Heater and current Marshall head coach Doc Holliday were assistants when Florida beat Ohio State for the BCS National Championship.
While Holliday returned to his alma mater WVU and, eventually, Marshall, Heater remained at Florida through 2010. In 2008, the Gators won another national championship.
After Meyer’s resignation after the 2010 season, Heater went to Temple, where he spent the last two seasons as defensive coordinator.
Other names that had surfaced as candidates for the job at Marshall included Bowling Green defensive coordinator Mike Elko, Vanderbilt defensive backs coach/defensive recruiting coordinator George Barlow and former Penn State assistant Tom Bradley, who was the Nittany Lions’ interim head coach in 2011 after Joe Paterno was fired.
There was also speculation that former Herd defensive assistant Steve Dunlap, who was fired at WVU over the weekend, would land back in Huntington. But a source said that would be unlikely at this point.
It still is possible that Dunlap could return to Marshall, just not as the defensive coordinator.
Marshall had the top offense in Conference USA in 2012, averaging 40.9 points and 534.2 yards per game. But the Thundering Herd finished the season 5-7 and missed out on bowl eligibility because the defense was at or near the bottom of every statistic, including last in scoring defense, allowing 43.1 points per game.
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In other Marshall coaching news, quarterbacks coach/assistant head coach/co-offensive coordinator Tony Petersen has been rumored to have accepted the offensive coordinator job at Louisiana Tech under new coach Skip Holtz. However, no official announcement has been made by either school.
Petersen is still listed among the assistant coaches on Marshall’s website, and the offensive coordinator position is still tagged as “TBA” on the Bulldogs’ site.
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